Eric Wedge played in 39 games as a Major League catcher from 1991-94, and managed in 1,134 more over seven seasons with the Cleveland Indians, winning AL Manager of the Year in 2007. Today, he interviewed in Pittsburgh for the thankless job of Pirates manager. Is it a fantastic entry point for a team on the rise or is Wedge just a glutton for punishment?
That's a question we could have answered very soon if the Pirates act quickly to replace John Russell, and Wedge could be a perfect fit. He worked with Neal Huntington while their careers overlapped in Cleveland, taking the Tribe to the AL Championship Series in 2007. And we know how Huntington treasures those Cleveland ties.
The Indians finished on the plus side of .500 twice in Wedge's seven seasons, and sadly, that would be a massive upgrade over the last seven seasons we've endured as Pirate fans. Wedge's '07 team was his high-water mark, going 96-66 in leading a team that featured two 19-game winners (CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona), a young Cliff Lee, and five players with 20+ home runs (Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner, and Ryan Garko). I'm sure the Pirates would've had a lot better record with that kind of productivity, which naturally makes one wonder how much of it Wedge should get credited for. But the issue of "manager worth" will always be an issue (good or bad), regardless of the team being discussed.
While the Pirates and Wedge feel each other out, the team has also reached out to 16-year MLB veteran Juan Samuel, according to Chuck Finder. Samuel most recently spent 2010 as Baltimore's interim manager, going 17-34 before turning the team over to Buck Showalter, who finished an astounding (and I'm not being sarcastic) 34-23 the rest of the way.
A three-time All-Star during his playing days, Samuel has coached in different capacities since his retirement, including seven seasons as a base coach in Detroit, one as manager of the Binghamton Mets, and four more with the Orioles. Samuel declined a return to his third base coaching job when Showalter took over and opted instead for a gig as an evaluator for Baltimore's Dominican Republic academy. He also has a son named Samuel Samuel, which may or may not put him over the top with Coonelly and Co. but scores ample comedic points with me.
It's believed that the Pirates will probably move quickly to land their first choice, whoever it may be, due to the various opening of similar (and possibly more attractive) job opportunities around the league. So don't be surprised if a new boss is hired in the very near future.